The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released updates to their .com Disclosures guide in March -- it was the biggest update to social media disclosure laws since the 2009 update to their Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
This was more than a simple policy update. These changes include a Tweet-by-Tweet example of how to properly disclose a Sponsored Tweet, why bogus advertiser-invented hashtags like "#spon" aren't proper disclosure, and why limited space is never an excuse for obscuring disclosure.
Here are the big ideas you need to know:
- These rules aren't new. The FTC is just making it painfully clear that the laws that have applied to advertising in print, TV, and radio for 50 years also apply to social media.
- These rules only come into effect when two key things happen: 1) You’re running a formal program that is actively recruiting people to endorse you, and 2) You're compensating them somehow.
- As the brand, you are 100% liable for your advertising, and you are the one the FTC is going to go after if there's an issue.
Through these changes, the FTC has offered an incredibly detailed explanation of what honest marketers already knew and practiced: Lying and failing to properly disclose in any advertisement — in any medium — is illegal and has been for more than half a century.
The good news: Running an honest, ethical social media program is easy
Running a social media program that is honest, trustworthy, and FTC compliant isn't complicated. Here's the recipe:
- Always require disclosure and truthfulness in social media from everyone who represents you online (employees, agencies, advocates, etc.).
- Monitor the conversation and correct any misstatements you discover.
- Create social media policies and training programs.
More resources to help you get started:
- Download SocialMedia.org's Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit. I'm the CEO of SocialMedia.org, and together our members created this toolkit to guide brands on how to create their disclosure policies. It's free, and it's already been vetted by dozens of corporate legal teams.
- Social Media Ethics Briefing: Staying Out of Trouble. Here's a video of me explaining social media disclosure and how to do it right.
Join our webinar on Wednesday, June 26 at 3:00 PM EST to learn all about these FTC updates and what they mean to your brand.
Join us next week for a live webinar where we'll dive into all of these details and more. What you'll learn:
- Red flags to watch out for: Are you already in trouble?
- Specifics directly from the FTC explaining what these rules mean to you
- How these new rules affect sponsored content on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social platforms
- What you should be asking of your vendors, agencies, and partners to make sure they don't get you in trouble
Click below to register for the webinar!